Eradication, elimination, suppression of Covid-19 Delta variant

Eradication, elimination and suppression of Covid-19: Latin roots and a limerick explain three strategies.

Do you know the difference between eradication and elimination as strategies to fight Covid-19, especially now that Delta rules the roost? In common usage the two words are virtually interchangeable, so at first I was confused. Yet from the start, epidemiologists treated the two words as two distinctly different strategies for getting rid of the coronavirus forever.

Finally I used my noggin and went to the Latin root of each word. Speaking of roots…

Eradicate means pull out by the roots

  • radix in Latin means “a radish”; or “a root”; or (figuratively) “a foundation, basis, origin, source”
  • radicare in Latin means “to take root”
  • eradicare in Latin means “to root out”
Photo of an embroidered illustration of three Russian characters pulling an enormous turnip out by the roots.
To eradicate Covid-19 we must all pull together, pulling it out by the roots. Good luck with that.
Image from the Royal School of Needlework (RSN)*

The old Russian folk tale about the enormous turnip is particularly appropriate. To eradicate the Delta variant of Covid-19, everyone in the entire world would need to work together. Worth a try. Not hopeful.

Eliminate means push out the door

  • limen in Latin means “threshold”
  • ex limine in Latin means “off the threshold”, from ex “off, out” + limine, ablative of limen
  • eliminare in Latin means “to banish” or “to push over the threshold and out the door.”

So if we eliminate Covid-19 we merely banish it from our own country. We kick it out. It exists, but not in our back yard. Elimination is the next best thing.

Drawing. Aotearoa New Zealand surrounded by a big wall keeping out ships, sharks and sailing boats. Good fairies fly overhead.
Aotearoa New Zealand attempts to eliminate the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Good luck with that.

Suppress means to squash or stifle

  • Latin suppressus is the past participle of supprimere, meaning “press down, stop, hold back, check, stifle”

Yesterday Chris Hipkins, our Minister for the coronavirus response, conceded that it may prove to be unrealistic to stick to our plan to eliminate the Delta variant of Covid-19 forever. Instead we would then try to suppress it. As in whack-a-mole. (Sorry, poor moles.)

Lockdown in Aotearoa—desperate doggerel

We had many months in fools' paradise. 
We sort of eliminated coronavirus.
Alpha was easy
but Delta is sneaky.
It's the worst of the worst parasites. 

(You can write a better limerick. Please do.)

*A student created this wonderful piece of stumpwork (the enormous turnip) for the Royal School of Needlework (RSN) Diploma in Technical Hand Embroidery.

7 thoughts on “Eradication, elimination, suppression of Covid-19 Delta variant

  1. Sadje says:

    Hoping for all three but realistically, probably the last one.

  2. judibwriting says:

    Loving to ..root out… the origins of words, I loved this blog. I am not quite ready to limerick COVID. A nine year old girl died of the bubonic plague this spring in the States- I suspect that we won’t eradicate but indeed suppress and learn to live with corona viruses for a very long time indeed.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you Judi. I hasten to say my limerick isn’t funny or meant to be funny. Just simple. This is a very scary time for me and my country. Indeed, the husband of one of my friends died of Covid-19 last year. And you’re right : I am assuming this coronavirus and its variants is a long term problem. But the bubonic plague!?

  3. It is certainly a scary thing to have to cope with. There is no doubt, in my mind, that we will have to live with Covid 19 for ever. There are now seven types of Coronavirus identified in humans and six types of Covid-19. None, so far have been eliminated. I think I shall be routinely wearing masks for the rest of my life. What I miss most is the ability to hug anyone who deserves a hug (and that is most people in the world!)

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Oh yes,the hugs! Yesterday I asked my daughter to bring me milk. I said, I don’t need it but it’s an excuse to see you (through a window, distanced). We talked about the horrors of Covid and yet I was happy.

  4. realruth says:

    We stay home and do household tasks
    then venture out wearing our masks
    Health Minister said
    hard getting legs spread
    just what was he thinking one asks

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yay for the rhyme! That was indeed the weirdest slip of the tongue. He did see the funny side though.

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